It's a Dog's Life

Two years old and already he's undergone surgery twice for a bum knee. Spunky still limps, but who's going to pay?

That's news to him, contends Dr. Stetzer. "Nothing was done inappropriately to that dog," he asserts. "We've done hundreds of these operations with no ill effects. On rare occasion you do get a dog that reacts negatively to the suture material, and that's apparently what happened here. But I don't know why she sued me. She didn't even bring the dog back." Stetzer argues that the surgery, which involves cutting a groove in the kneecap and using the stitches as a temporary support for a torn ligament, is a routine procedure that was performed properly.

As for the "inflated cost of the dog," kennel owner Gregg Docktor says he can't be held responsible for a congenital defect the business couldn't have foreseen a year before it became apparent. "Since I'm guaranteeing the dog anyway, if it had a problem from the beginning, why would I sell it?" he asks. "We probably spent more on the surgery than on the price of the dog to begin with." If Sowell really wants to add up all the freebies she got with her dog, Docktor adds, she'll find Spunky was a steal at $595. "I was a willing seller and she was a willing buyer. Nobody held a gun to her head. As far as the medical problems, that's between her and the vet."

Sowell does, however, carry to court a bit of ammunition against Merryfield Kennels. The Better Business Bureau of South Florida lists five complaints against the kennel in the past three years, and gives the establishment an "unsatisfactory rating" because it did not respond to a complaint called to its attention by the bureau.

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